5 - Trust In Teams--And Why It Matters
is the willingness to believe that others will behave in reliable,
predictable, non-hurtful ways. It is one of the most important conditions
for healthy and productive relationships. It contributes to the
sense of safety that allows us to let ourselves be known to others
and to try new things. Without trust, we are more guarded in our
interactions with others, less willing to share information or other
resources, and reluctant to work collaboratively with others.
more than ever, organizations require collaboration in order to
succeed. The complexity of technology, increased competition, and
interdependence, have created a work environment that requires the
knowledge and expertise of many, interacting synergistically. It's
too much for any one individual to do alone.
so, increasingly, we have come to rely on teams as the best arrangement
for solving difficult problems under demanding conditions. Presumably,
a team is comprised of a manageable number of people, each of whom
has a contribution to make. But that's not all that's required for
a team to be successful.
identifies three essential components of team success: (1) a goal
that is clear, significant, and embraced by all members; (2) members
who are competent in the technical aspects of the project; and (3)
the ability of the members to work together effectively and collaboratively.
This third factor is so fundamental to high functioning teams that
it can make or break their ability to succeed. In our experience,
teams often have the most difficulty with this element. It is frequently
overlooked with the hope that if a group of talented people work
really hard, they will be able to "pull it out."
the heart of collaborative work relationships is trust. Paradoxically,
the same conditions that characterize today's work environment--faster,
cheaper, geographic dispersion, competition for scarce resources,
downsizing, mergers and acquisitions--also create conditions that
contribute to mistrust and the feelings of betrayal that come with
if trust is critical for success but hard to create and sustain,
the important question is, "How can trust be developed and
maintained in teams? "
Where It All Starts: It is important to understand that different
people come to work with different assumptions about trust and how
it is built. These beliefs are typically formed and reinforced in
early life experiences, including cultural differences. This takes
two forms which can be summarized as the "half empty/half full"
model. Some approach relationships based on the belief that others
are fundamentally trustworthy. They start from a position of trust,
holding and building on this assumption until the other person does
something that is perceived as untrustworthy. These are the "the
glass is half full" people. Those who see the glass as "half
empty" start from the position that it is better not to trust
others until the others have demonstrated that they are worthy of
that trust. They have a wait-and- see approach. The potential for
collision between these two points of view is high and can, ironically,
contribute to a difficult beginning for everyone, increasing the
likelihood of misunderstanding. As part of the team formation and
start-up process, it's a good idea to find out where each of the
members is starting from and to discuss what will help them develop
a foundation of trust.
The Dynamics of Trust and Risk: The lifeblood of thriving organizations
is the ability to innovate. Whether innovations are tangible, patentable
inventions, intellectual property, or new processes that improve
how work is done and customers are served, companies can't compete
successfully without them. Creating and innovating new products
and process entails taking risks and the possibility of failure.
Our survival instinct, however, leads us to avoid or minimize risk
when we are feeling unsafe. Employees who experience their work
environment as risky put a lot of energy into *avoiding or managing*
those risks rather than *taking* risks. Situations or cultures of
low trust contribute to this experience or perception of riskiness.
High trust is the condition that supports and enables high risk-taking.
The Importance of Team Start-up and Formal Agreements: Perhaps
the greatest investment that can be made to foster a climate of
trust among team members is to engage in a formal team start-up
process. During this process, team members come together to discuss
the team's charter, align and buy in to the goals and deliverables,
clarify roles and responsibilities, and work out important details
and expectations with stakeholders. The creation of a clear set
of team agreements is equally important. These agreements are the
basis for setting realistic expectations and the rules of engagement
for how members will work together. They must also include a process
for how issues will get surfaced, conflicts will get resolved, and
problems will get escalated when the team cannot come to agreement.
Since unmet expectations--whether articulated or assumed--and the
inability to resolve conflict are the chief causes of feelings of
disappointment and betrayal, these agreements are extremely important.
Disappointment and Betrayal: Disappointment and betrayal are
the feelings that result from a perceived breach of trust. This
happens, for example, when a commitment is not delivered or an agreement
is not kept, or so it seems. When this occurs, the level of trust
of the person feeling betrayed drops. The amount that it drops depends
on several factors, including that person's position on the "half-
full/half-empty" continuum and the significance of the unmet
expectation to him/her. If care is taken to discuss and work out
the issues in a timely way, trust can be recovered--though it will
not return to the original level immediately. If little or nothing
is done to deal with the breach, then the trust and the relationship
may be permanently damaged. When successive breaches occur, these
cycles repeat themselves until they become patterns or norms in
the team, the relationships are characterized by mistrust and suspicion,
and the style of work becomes increasingly dysfunctional. Distrustful
relationships between or among even a few members of a team are
enough to affect the entire group. Once this occurs, it is virtually
impossible for the team to recover without assistance from someone
outside the team who has expertise in rebuilding damaged relationships.
So the best approach is to get off to a good start with clear agreements
and to make sure that the team has the necessary support early in
its life to help members work within their newly created arrangements
until they become the accepted norm.
An Additional Caution: With many more options available for
how to communicate with each other as well as increased geographic
dispersion of people who need to collaborate, we have become increasingly
reliant on technical communications media at the expense of face-to-face
(f-t- f) interaction. But when it comes to developing trust, there
is no substitute for f-t-f engagement. How much is enough? It depends
on the team, its work, and other environmental and organizational
circumstances. Both research and our experience show that the initial
start up work needs to be done f-t-f. People frequently avoid conflict
therefore and conflict resolution by phone or on-line for fear of
being misunderstood and making things worse. So periodic meetings
for check- in and team maintenance are an absolute necessity, as
are agreements that call for the surfacing of any issues that could
affect the relationships among the team members as soon as they
is our observation that teams more often fail because of relationship
issues than for lack of technical ability. This component is often
neglected because it requires hard, uncomfortable work and an investment
of time and energy by *everyone* involved. The price that is paid
every day--in costs to people, organizations, and customers--is
"Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective
Relationships in Your Organization" - by Dennis Reina &
Michelle Reina (Berrett- Koehler, 1999)
today's fast-paced, changing workplace, trust is more important
than ever. But according to Dennis and Michelle Reina, after two
decades of downsizing, restructuring, and managerial changes, trust
within organizations is at an all-time low. How can we reverse this
damage? "Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace" gives us
a proven model to help us rebuild trust in our organizations. The
Reina Trust & Betrayal Model helps us to conceptualize trust
and betrayal in new ways.
book is divided into three parts. Part I (Understanding Trust
& Betrayal) defines what trust and betrayal are and why they
are important in today's organizations. Many authors and consultants
talk about trust, but use euphemisms to discuss betrayal. The Reinas
deal with betrayal head on. Their model shows us how to begin the
process of healing from betrayal and rebuilding trust both between
individuals and in teams.
II (Transactional Trust) is the meat of the book. Reina &
Reina remind us that trust is created incrementally and is reciprocal--one
has to give it to get it. They introduce us to three types of transactional
trust: contractual trust, communication trust, and competence trust.
Each has specific behaviors that build trust and maintain relationships
in the workplace.
Trust, which forms the basis of most interactions in the workplace,
is defined as managing expectations, establishing boundaries, delegating
appropriately, keeping agreements, and being congruent in our behavior.
Communication Trust is the willingness to share information, tell
the truth, admit mistakes, maintain confidentiality, give and receive
constructive feedback, and speak with good purpose. When we readily
and consistently share information and involve employees in the
running of the business, it not only affects trust, but also productivity
and profitability. Competence Trust involves respecting people's
knowledge, skills, and judgment, involving others and seeking their
input, and helping people learn skills. Competence Trust is found
where leaders and employees learn from one another, and where both
are learning from their customers, suppliers, and competitors.
III (Transformative Trust) shows us how the model can serve
as a tool to help us move our organizations toward the highest form
of trust--Transformative Trust. Transformative Trust occurs when
the amount of trust within a team or organization reaches a critical
point and increases exponentially, becoming self-generating and
synergistic. Four core characteristics are usually present--conviction,
courage, compassion, and community.
the end of each chapter a section headed "Ideas in Action"
provides reflective questions and application exercises for using
the material in day-to-day work environments.
at millpond believe that in high-trust environments, people are
more willing to keep agreements, share information, admit mistakes,
learn from those mistakes, and take on greater responsibility. They
are more committed to and aligned with the organization's vision.
By creating workplaces where trust flourishes, we can dramatically
improve morale, productivity, and profits. This book teaches us
how to do that.
Web-sites and Other Resources we've found about this topic include:
web site for Dennis and Michelle Reina's firm, Chagnon & Reina
Associates, is www.trustinworkplace.com
They offer several resources for trust building, including a certification
program for HR and OD professionals.
Chapter 6, Collaborative Climate, in Larson, C.E. and LaFasto, F.M.J.
(1989). Teamwork: What must go right/What can go wrong. Newbury
Park, CA: Sage Publications for a discussion of this topic.
C. (1995, May-June). Trust and the virtual organization. Harvard
Business Review, Reprint no. 95304.
Institute offers a variety of development programs that address
trust building between individuals and in organizations: www.ntl.org
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